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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I was recently asked to assist (setup and consult) a local nature center nearby in setting up a locally collected biotope type tank and wanted to bounce some ideas for what I believe I have to work with. The center stated it was a 20 gallon tank (unsure if it is a 20H or 20L) and that no one at the center had much experiance with aquariums. I was happy to assist as I know there are quite a lot of local schools that use the faciluty heavily for outings and such. I have some ideas and would be interested to hear opinions either way...

Substrate - Eco-Complete (I have a ton that is sitting dry and I could use) or perhaps collected sand from a nearby stream. I even thought about topping the eco-complete with it, but think it will eventually make a mixed up mess)

Lighting - I doubt they have anything that is very decent, so I'll likely just buy/donate a dual T5 fixture with 10,000K bulbs.

Filtration - Eheim 2211 with Purigen to control the tannins

Plants (Spring, Tx.) - Locally collected Sag, Floaters of some sort (look like red root, but local), Fissidens (not local per se, but found in Texas), Riccia, and anything else that I spot locally.

Hardscape - Locally collected dried oak and hardwoods branches that might work similar to Manzanita. I might use either Oak leaves or crush up some IAL for some substrate effect.

Livestock - Gammarus, Ghost Shrimp (Paleomontes sp.), Golden Topminnow ( Fundulus chrysotus) 1M/2F, Possibly a Banded pygmy perch (unsure about adding it as they are difficult to feed), Ramshorn snails (if they get too far out of control I can add some assassins and just remove them at a later time), Tadpole Madtom (if I can find one)

Lighting schedule of 8-10 hours daily on a timer, for ease of control

Dosing - No CO2, so I will recommend Excel dosing, with a compliment of Seachem Flourish and Iron. With either substrate I'll start with root tabs and maintain a 6 month schedule for maintanance.

Some issues I would appreciate feedback on

-I tried working other options over in my head, but can not seem to find any other loacally viable species in a tank that small.
-I think the plants should work with a dual T5 light and dosing, but minimal care is to be expected
-Is a tank like this doable with me only being able to do care every 2 weeks?

Any ideas or suggestions would be appreciated and once I have a plan and get approval I will take some pics as the tank gets built.
 

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Dual t5 on a 20 might push the lighting a bit, don't quote me.. especially since you'll only be around to manage it ever few weeks.

I'd consider dirting the tank, skip having other people dose. That's asking for trouble.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I imagine the only dosing would be a daily regimen of Excel for algal control (lacking the ability to use otos, SAE, nerites, and RCS is a bit tougher then a planted tank, lol)

I have never had much success with using dirt in my tanks, though have read about it being done successfully. I figured the Eco-complete would work well as a stable inert substrate that is low mess.

Yeah, I do imagine lighting will be a real issue. I'll have to pack the tank from the start and really control the photoperiod to keep it under control. I imagine breaking it into 2-4hour periods initially and elongate the period as the tank settles in. I think using the riccia and floaters will assist me in diffusing and absorbing the lighting initially until the tank is a bit more settled. I just hate seeing T8's go on the tank as they are just tough to have any decent greens with. I suppose I could try out some LED options...
 

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I never have problems with t8 or 12 bulbs, its all about the spectrum. Sylvania brand bulbs are cheap and work!

I had a tank running for many weeks without any non-invert algae control. I had trumpet snails for clean up, added a baby bristlenose for a week and moved it out. The tank is still rather spotless.

A healthy and proper plant selection will fight off most algaes. Look for some stems that will emerge, along with your floaters.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Right on! I'll keep my eyes peeled for some when I start collecting. I suppose I could always use some hornwort as its a US native in the very least. Thanks for the ideas
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I use some T8's on my Tanganyikan & Sulawesi biotope tanks, but with the Sag I would be worried they would not like such low wattage. I think the T5's would help make everything a bit more 'visible' to the visitors. If it gets too crazy I can always swap the fixture for a T8. I run a low tech 10 gallon planted with 2 - 36 watt PC 10,000K bulbs and it does fine with Excel dosing, floaters, and 10 hour broken photo periods.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Thanks Mistahoo! Figured this was best posted in a few different forums then we usually haunt, lol. Now if I spot you on the NANFA forum I'll be truly surprised. I have tried Sag a few times previously and it always failed under less then optimal light.
 

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Lol I'm on Nano-reef, Marsh, HFB, TPT, MFK, and a few others. I've just been on TPT and HFB lately, but I'm starting to like the other forums over HFB because of all the drama and the infractions being handed out every other minute. I've never seen such a forum that does that. But nevertheless, it's still a great resource despite all that's been going on lately.

Anyways, back on topic. I've never tried sag, but I've tried dwarf sag. Too bad it was shredded. I'm attempting dwarf sag again in my 210g. It helps to have small fish that will feed on the infusoria on the plants especially since you will only be able to check it every 2 weeks. That's how I got by with neglecting the tank. Bushy plants, floaters, mosses, hornwort all seem to host the most infusoria. I actually collected some Hornwort today out by Cypress Creek. It was hiding in some cracks. Also found some clams! I'll check out some local plants/fish/shrimp and report back what I like or find interesting.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Glad to hear you found some locally, it'll be a far better sale when I pitch the tank ideas then a US native... I figure I'll look over the spots we collect at in a few weeks and see what I can, but I've been collecting at those spots for a few years and doubt anything 'new' has shown up. I'd like to stick with stuff found in the area (maybe 20 miles) and showcase just what cool stuff lives around us. With a decent set up it should go well and might spark some kids into trying out a tank at home or might even get the 'biologists' that operate the Nature Center into fishkeeping and planted tanks. the place is only a few blocks from my house, so swinging over during my two weeks in will be a breeze, but its the two weeks I am offshore I am worried about... Theoretically these folks should understand dosing, light schedules, and feedings
 

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Vallisneria Americana, Pennywort, or Cabomba?

It's hard looking through lists and lists of plants/fish without pictures. Here's a plant list and an animal list of Texas local stuff. Not quite sure if it's Houston local.

Another plant list with pictures! Fish list of Texas natives with black and white pictures. Fish checklist of Texas natives.
 

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Glad to hear you found some locally, it'll be a far better sale when I pitch the tank ideas then a US native... I figure I'll look over the spots we collect at in a few weeks and see what I can, but I've been collecting at those spots for a few years and doubt anything 'new' has shown up. I'd like to stick with stuff found in the area (maybe 20 miles) and showcase just what cool stuff lives around us. With a decent set up it should go well and might spark some kids into trying out a tank at home or might even get the 'biologists' that operate the Nature Center into fishkeeping and planted tanks. the place is only a few blocks from my house, so swinging over during my two weeks in will be a breeze, but its the two weeks I am offshore I am worried about... Theoretically these folks should understand dosing, light schedules, and feedings
LOL theoretically! I tend to not trust anyone with dosing, but I'd like to think if they're working a nature center that they can handle dosing. Maybe get an eye dropper or plastic syringe to make it easier for them to be accurate? I generally use an eye dropper for dosing.

It's great that you're doing this. If I can help, let me know and I can swing by when I manage to find the time to. I'm sure it'll influence them if it's done well!
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
I think we have a bunch of droppers Sasha acquired for dosing that are laying around somewhere in the house and thought they would work. Yeah, looking over lists and trying to determine what I actually collect is tough, lol. I'll be leading the GHAC collection trip in a few weeks, so I can keep my eyes peeled for some plants and viable options.

Thanks for the kind words, I think it'll be fun and a great chance to volunteer and do a challenging tank that will be enjoyed by a lot of people. I'll eventually post up some stuff on the HFB forum and maybe see about getting GHAC to sponser the tank. I don't mind throwing down on a decent light and filter and I think it would be nice to see the club do something like this that we all could be proud of.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
I have caught Fundulus Chrysotus (what I planned for the main attraction for the tank), Fundulus Notatus, Scaly Sand Darter, and Pygmy Banded sunfsh all at the local spots we will be collecting at. The Notatus are just BIG (like 3-4"), the scaly sand darters would do well in a swift water tank as they love to dart into and out of the sand, and the Pygmy perch are way cool, but sooo tough to feed. I only managed to keep mine alive in a cherry breeding tank and they never took any food (shrimplets galore) so I imagine they would starve in that tank unless the Gammarus start reproducing like mad. They are so small they would just hide all the time and the kids would probably prefer to see something with a bit more Pizazz. Thinking about some Texas shiners (Notropis Amabilis) though, as I caught some in a nearby creek...
 

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I think Fundulus Chrysotus as the main attraction would be great!

It seems like the hornwort I collected and the hornwort I got from you look entirely different in shape. The one I collected looks like the one in this link. The one I got from you looks more spread apart? It's not clumped up together like the one in the link.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Yeah, it does sooo much better under real sun and light. I've never been able to get it like that in my tanks, it just starts getting leggy and does not have the same effect. Maybe a higher wattage light and longer photoperiod? I really like the look of the Golden Topminnow and they adapt well to aquarium life, even taking regular flake and pellets. They are all over in a small creek I know of and catching 20-30 adults is not hard so we should be able to sex them prior to introduction in the tank and can always get more if anything unfortunate happens. I imagine their spawning colors would look terrific!
 

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I love the colors on those topminnows! Spawning colors would just be amazing and could easily become the main attraction over Fundulus Chrysotus.

All this talk about natives makes me want to get a native tank started with native plants and small fish. Maybe even some native substrate lol.
 
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